The other day I wrote to Anne in response to some questions she emailed me. She replied not long after in another email. Here is an excerpt (I've removed the more private information): (Note: I've added some happy puppies playing in the snow since this topic can be rather serious, and we are having the biggest snow in WV that I've seen since we moved here 5 years ago)animals_125_42-P
Thank you for answering my email. I am only 21 and it seams that I am searching for myself and what it is that I can believe. I see how people lie on a daily basis to make the even more entertaining than the event really was so I find it hard to believe anything that is told to me. Giving this way of living I find it tremendously hard to base my life and way of living around things that have been written in a book (the bible) that has been translated umpteen different times before coming to english. The thought that people let their lives revolve around something that was written 2000 years ago just amazes me. As humans are we so daft to do such a thing? The more I look into religion the more I am amazed at the living situations of some people in this world.

My dad did not express any beliefs of god when I was young because he is like me a firm non-believer until there is hard core facts to show him. He wanted me to believe what I wanted and didn’t want his opinions to influence me so he felt it best not to tell me anything. My mother... well she didn’t teach me anything about god or religion until I was 12 we went to church for the first time. She stuck me in Sunday school before a service. Now my father’s mother was catholic. She went twice on Sunday and Wednesday night. I stayed the night with her several times and went to church with her I believe when I was 7. That was enough religion for me. I still remember sitting in the pew looking around saying to myself "are these people really this crazy?!?"

I went to public schools in Indiana. I went to ten different schools before 9th grade so needless to say I was not well adjusted. I never really had any foundation so to say.

I have two children and I want to be able to educate them on religion and allow them to choose their own way. I don’t see the point in trying to force them to do things my way because they need to find out who they are maybe then they won’t have the same struggles that I do.

To answer your question no I was never taught the prevailing theories of how the earth was formed through natural cosmic events. As I said we moved a lot and the curriculum was different at each school there were several things I missed out on. That is why I am so ignorant on religion because I was never taught the scientific end of the world.

I don’t feel that I "NEED" a religion. I would just like to know a little more about why I am here on this earth. I feel there is a purpose for everything because it just doesn’t seam like we exist just to exist. There is some sort of purpose behind our being. So now my job is to find the why.

Thank you so much for this information!! You are right I will have many more questions for you. I want to look over the information you have given me and I want to do some additional research. (Internet based because I now live in the middle of BFE so no museums in my area and the library has a limited amount of books. Besides the fact, I am in the middle of the Bible belt so there will be virtually no literature supporting the thought that there could be an existence not provided by god.)

And here is my new reply:

206d6aee-337f-4b0f-aba2-c095e58c848dThanks for answering my questions. Yes, please research for yourself. The internet opens the whole wide world of information up to you, even in the middle of BFE. I live in a small town that is quite heavily populated with churches and one sad library. There is one small set of shelves for the science section in there. It's pathetic. I do almost all of my research online, too.

I was thinking about you today and found something that you might enjoy: a set of 5 videos for young and old alike by professor Richard Dawkins. He is an evolutionary biologist. It's 5 lectures he is giving to children in England but I just watched the first two and really enjoyed them and learned little bits and pieces of information I didn't know before. He talks and then demonstrates what he says in ways that are easy to understand. But trust me, he doesn't talk down to anyone. He is quite interesting and has a great passion for life and how we got here and what our place in the world is.

Here is a link to his website with all 5 videos. They are an hour each, I think.

Finding meaning and purpose in your life is not the same as looking for something to believe in. Perhaps you're using the term differently than I am. Perhaps what you mean is that the two things are the same. Let's look at the definitions to clarify.

belief: 1. something believed; an opinion or conviction; 2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof; 3. confidence; faith; trust; 4. a religious tenet or tenets

purpose: 1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.; 2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.

meaning: 2. the end, purpose, or significance of something

So a belief is a conviction that doesn't have proof to back it up, which means it's similar to faith.

faith: 2. belief that is not based on proof

You said you want to know why you are here on earth and that you feel there is a purpose for everything. Why do you feel this way? Is it because it gives you comfort? Just because you want to believe there is a deeper meaning to the universe doesn't make it so. There is no evidence that there is any validity to that kind of thinking.

Let me put it this way. You say you feel there is a reason you are here on this earth. This leads to fallacious thinking where every little thing that goes right in your life affirms this false belief. Of course this is cherry-picking because you ignore all the things that happen in your life that are completely meaningless or downright negative. This leads you to think you (and the human race) are special, that we have some magical purpose because you have ignored the whole of reality to focus only on what you feel and what confirms what you want to believe to begin with.

The human mind is amazing and awesome, but it does take shortcuts and can easily be misled and make wrong conclusions. It's very easy to cherry-pick and remember only what feels right or what seems special. This is dangerous and will lead you down a path of lies and myths in trying to believe in and confirm something that has no basis in reality.

It's normal to ponder why were are here and what it all means. We have consciousness and an amazingly complex brain that can handle complicated concepts like the number 0 and the number 1 for example.

2241901010_38270c5163I also think this is one of the toughest issues an atheist deals with. If there is no god then what is the reason for existing? What is our purpose in life?

Well, it's pretty simple. There is no purpose for everyone. You make your own purpose. You have to find your own meaning. I think some universal ideas would be to always keep learning, and do your best and be a good person. What is the meaning of life? There isn't any one meaning. It's what you find important. Try to find your own happiness and do as little damage to others as possible along the way.

Since you have children, nothing is more important in this part of your life than raising them to the best of your ability. Raising them free of dogma, with honesty, with a the ability to ask questions and think for themselves is the best thing you can do for them.

I know that thinking there is some cosmic force for good out there is really appealing, but there's no evidence for such a thing. While it's nice to chalk up good things to such a force, there are an awful lot of bad things - no natural justice, natural disasters, birth defects, etc - that make that seem pretty silly.

Basically you are here on this earth because life moves inexorably on. Within life, the need to procreate is part of evolution and natural selection. Again I recommend the videos by Dawkins that I linked to above. They will really give you an idea of evolution which will help you to see that we evolved naturally, and will continue to evolve unless we destroy ourselves and the planet by being careless, short-sighted and selfish.

2269579152_23c00007ffInstead of searching for why you are here, make the most of your one precious life. Raise your children to the very best of your ability, be good to yourself and others, learn as much as you can. Make your own meaning and purpose with what you have.

Sometimes thinking for yourself, being free of religious dogma, reminds us of our grown-up responsibilities that religion masks. Thinking about such topics are part of being truly grown-up in this life. It might not be fun when you first encounter the new ideas, but reality is always preferable to fairy tales and lies. Give it a few days. Learn as much as you can about evolution and you'll see. Truth and reality are magnificent and beautiful.

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